It is easy for a paper jungle of bills, receipts, and documents to take over your desk or office space. However, this can make it challenging to find the papers you or a loved one may need in the event of an emergency. The following is a list of 13 types of documents you will want to keep organized in a safe area for easy access in times of illness, death, or disaster. You may want to keep these papers safely locked away in a fireproof safe, within a waterproof container, or on password-protected digital files accessible from the internet.
13. Identification Papers
It is helpful to keep copies of important identification papers such as your driver’s license, passport, social security card, and birth certificate. These copies can come in handy if the originals are lost, stolen, or destroyed. Additionally, access to these records can assist your loved ones if you sustain an accident or injury that prevents you from obtaining them yourself.
12. Financial Records
Maintain records of your bank accounts, credit cards, retirement funds, and investment portfolios. If you have a safe deposit box, document the location, account number, contents, and the location of the key to allow easier access if needed. Designate a family member who can access your safe deposit box if you become incapacitated. Safely file information regarding stocks, bonds, and other investments. Maintain both originals and copies of titles or deeds to any personal property, including homes, cars, and recreational vehicles.
11. Personal Documents
You may possess personal papers and family documents that have little value to outsiders but are of considerable sentimental value to you and your family. Store keepsakes such as family photos, birth records, historical records, and heirloom books in a fireproof container. Additionally, photographs or digital copies of these items can be stored on a flash drive and kept in your safe or safe deposit box.
10. Marriage and Divorce Records
Copies of your marriage certificates or divorce decree should also be organized and stored safely away. According to Vital Records Services, there are several circumstances that may require you to produce your marriage certificate. You may need your marriage certificate to change your name, file joint taxes, apply for a home loan, or share health benefits with your spouse. A divorce certificate may be necessary when applying for a loan if you have shared joint credit with a former spouse.
9. Medical Papers
Keep medical papers accessible in case of emergency. If you become incapacitated, this will help friends or family members obtain the necessary information required by a hospital or physician. Ensure that your primary care physician, dentist, and preferred hospital are documented. Maintain records of your current prescriptions, medical diagnoses, and past surgical procedures.
8. Insurance Documents
You may possess several forms of insurance, including health insurance, life insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and auto insurance. Keep these records well maintained and organized so they are easy to find in the event of a medical emergency, natural disaster, accident, or theft. Information contained within these documents includes account numbers, policy numbers, deductibles, and types of coverage.
7. Living Will
A living will is a legal document that lays out your wishes for medical treatment in the event you become unable to make your wishes known. A living will is beneficial for individuals of all ages since a devastating injury can occur at any time. According to the American Cancer Society, a living will outlines your instructions regarding medical equipment, resuscitation, IV fluids, and pain medications. This provides your family with peace of mind if they must make medical decisions on your behalf. Make sure your family members know where to find this important document.
6. Power of Attorney (POA) Records
A POA document is a legal document that allows you to assign a trusted friend, family member, or organization to make decisions for you. This ensures that decisions made on your behalf are made by persons you trust. According to LegalZoom, there are different types of POA. Different types of POA include General POA, Special POA, Healthcare POA, and Durable POA. You may set up a POA to manage your personal finances, healthcare, or business transactions. In any case, you will want to keep these documents easily accessible should they be needed.
5. Wills and Trusts
It is important to draw up a will to designate the distribution of your possessions, money, and property in the event of your death. Doing so ensures that your belongings end up in the right hands and frees friends and family members from making tough decisions. If you have gone to the trouble of drawing up a will, be sure your loved ones are aware of its existence. Store your will and other legal documents in a safe, secure, and logical location.
4. Contact Information
If you live alone, it especially important to keep contact information accessible and readily retrievable. Essential phone numbers include those of immediate family members or close friends. Provide phone numbers for your physician, dentist, lawyer, and clergyman. Other helpful contact numbers include those of your employer, your insurance agent, and any household employees such as your housekeeper or landscaper.
3. Recent Tax Returns
According to the IRS, tax returns should be kept for a minimum of three years. The IRS recommends holding onto to tax returns for seven years in special cases, such as if you have filed a loss claim for bad debt reductions or worthless securities. In addition to maintaining these records for tax purposes, the information on your returns may be necessary when applying for loans. Mortgage loans and student loans often require information found on your tax return.
2. Funeral Plans
A funeral plan provides your loved ones with your wishes regarding your memorial service, burial, or cremation. This allows them to carry out your wishes without guessing at your intentions. However, if your funeral plans are unknown or undiscovered, they will not be of use. If you draw up plans for after your death, make sure your loved ones are aware of these plans. Provide them with information so they can access them when needed.
1. Designated Beneficiary Records
Certain accounts such as life insurance, retirement, and annuity accounts require you to designate a beneficiary. This person or persons will inherit the proceeds from your policy once you pass away. Keeping records of these policies in an accessible place enables your loved ones to determine your assets in a timely manner. Thus, they will be able to properly distribute them in the event of your death.